It used to bother me that my Dad wasn't like other Dads. When I would meet my friends fathers, there Dads were playful, fun and charasmatic, but my Dad (the preacher) was stoic and walked around with a bible, even at work his coworkers called him "Rev". He refused to let us date, have company, listen to music, go to parties or anything "secular" and oft times I hated the way he treated us. I would pray and ask God to change him, make him like other fathers and to make me proud to talk about him. As I began to get older, my inquisitive side began to take over and I started asking him direct questions I knew he couldn't back out of. Surely there had to be a reason he was like this and I wanted to know, I needed to know. The more I probed, the more I found out things about him that shaped my opinion.
My Father and his two siblings were given up to foster care as children. My dad was the oldest and aged out of foster homes much earlier than he had hoped for. He had to find his way, often times in what felt like a constant state of darkness. He met my mother at a young age and became a father much sooner than he wanted. He screwed up. A lot and often. And most of the time, those screw ups involved US. Most of those mistakes haunt him and all of his children to this very day.
Recently I spoke to my dad about raising seven (7) children with an iron fist and the choices he and my mother made and what changes (if any) he would make if he could. He took a deep breath before he replied and said...
"At times I feel like I failed every one of you, including your mother. I didn't always make the best decisions. Sometimes I let my anger, my baggage, lead me and I never felt you, as my children, deserved an explanation for my actions and reactions. I didn't begin to let God lead my relationship with you all until you were grown and by that time it was too late for explanations and excuses. I should have eased up a little, I should have made better choices but I was young and I was lost at times myself. It became the blind leading the blind and I should have let God lead me, so I could better lead my family. I wasn't the father I could have been to you when you were a child but now I am a better man and can be a better father now."
His words sat with me. Everything he said filtered through me and I interpreted what he was saying and have begun to apply it to my relationships with my children, my siblings, my family and people I meet. You have ONE life. You will most definitely make mistakes in your life and you won't always make the best decisions for your children but if you step away from the guilt of your past and design your present and future to be inclusive of your own personal struggles, you can learn to be apologetic and work on a better relationship with the people you love today.
I am proud of my Dad today. His story is a lesson of hope for me. I govern my home and my relationship with my children very differently and I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong and sometimes when I open my mouth, my parents come out. Through his mistakes he taught me things and although I don't say it much, I am thankful for him.